The Story of Tata Chapter 18
A Brief Interlude From Battle
By The Man
"It's funny, isn't it?" Flea asked from her bed. She had been reading a book Janus had bought from a writer about the cruelties that had been done upon the Earthbound by the people of Zeal, or at least by its rulers. Now she let the book drop face down on her breast and lolled her head over so she could watch Janus practice his flows of magic. He did it nightly now, ever since they had begun to live there, trying to weave such complex flows that Flea thought impossible to work before. She knew she surely could not work such intricate spells; she specialized in attacking and only until recently, healing. Healing was very complicated for most magic users, and successfully healing a person took some doing.
"What?" asked Janus through gritted teeth. It was no use. He let the weave go and slumped in his stance. He looked over at Flea while breathing heavily and wiping away sweat from his brow. The lamplight of a candle resting on a stool nearby the bed captured her whole face and lit it up well enough for Janus to see the small smile on her radiant face. Her eyes glowed like burning embers, reflecting the candle's small flame. She wore a shift that Janus always thought far too thin for the harsh climate they lived in. She never seemed cold, however, despite the fact that their bedroom was in a cave, newly dug to protect from the constant raging blizzard. He himself was stripped to the waist in his small clothes, but he was at least sweating. It was night, so it was even colder. Tata and Glenn had both gotten situated with beds in a different branch of the cave they were in. Tata had muttered a bit about being unable to hear them if they ever cried out during the night through the rock walls. Said it was tempting fate. Janus didn't think so; Grendel was clearly dead, no matter what Tata said. He had seen enough battles to know what dead people look like, and dead people stayed dead.
Flea put aside her book and slowly stood out of bed, still wearing her small smile. Yes, Janus thought to himself as he casually examined her up and down, It is definitely far to thin for this weather.
Then her grin went wider, exposing teeth, strait and white, almost too perfect to be real.
Janus knew from experience that Flea's grin usually meant some mischief would be following shortly.
"Tata." She answered as she moved closer to him. "Who would have thought, huh? The former hero wannabe turns out to me the ultimate warrior of truth and justice." She stopped a foot in front of him. Her hair cascaded down behind her shoulders like crimson silk. He wanted very much to touch that hair.
Janus stood up straighter. "He is a very exceptional youth. Very strong, of will and heart."
Flea cocked her head to one side slightly. "Sort of like you, huh?"
Janus looked down at his feet. "I wish. His heart is pure and strong. Mine is stained with too much sadness. The guilt of killing my mother, my-"
"Oh, get off of that!" Flea said in an exasperated voice. Her voice always reminded Janus of a robin singing in the spring. "You are happy now. You aren't any more a cold-hearted killer than I am. You even have some friends, including your long lost sister. You should be happy!"
Janus laughed a bitter laugh. "Oh yes. Definitely. After all, I am Shadowdancer, your friendly, good-hearted jokester. I'm a laugh a minute."
Janus barely saw Flea's smile drop, but it was enough to make him raise his eyes to her again. She was half a foot shorter than he, and right then, she looked very sad.
"I'm sorry." He managed. He did feel sorry; hurting Flea was the last thing he wanted to do.
"It's okay." Flea responded. "I just care about you a lot, and I want you to be happy. I just don't know how to make you feel that way sometimes, and it just depresses me when I can't put a smile on your face."
"Smiles never really fit well on my face." Janus said quietly. "Blood was always more at home there."
Flea had nothing to say to that, and instead, lowered her head in a defeated manner. Janus walked past her and over to his bedside table, where a clock he had "borrowed" from the future still ticked away. It was already past midnight, but Janus didn't feel the slightest bit tired. How could he sleep after what he had learned today? How could anyone ?
Janus nearly leaped out of his skin and whirled around. Flea stood right behind him now, her small smile back on her face. Before Janus could do anything, she wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled herself into his chest. Janus had no choice other than to wrap his own arms around her waist. Her hair was like silk on his arms, her skin smooth and warm on his chest.
"Janus." She spoke his name again in loving notes of sweet melodies. "If I have learned one thing from other people, it's that a person is only who they choose to be, not what people say they must be." She looked up into his eyes and Janus felt utter happiness and love wash over him like a tidal wave. It nearly made him cry with happiness.
"We can't all be happy constantly, Flea." He said softly.
"But you can be happy ninety percent of the time." She said as her smile deepened.
Janus went silent. What could you say to a woman who practically lived to love you? "I I love you, Flea." He said quietly.
Her smile revealed teeth. She stood up on her toes and lightly kissed him. She went back down, but Janus was already smiling.
"Good, good." She said. "You're learning."
Janus' smile touched his eyes and for a moment everything in the world was perfect. Janus always knew these things passed, given time. But then he thought to himself. Hey, he thought. Why not make it last a little longer?
He kissed her then, as softly as a sunlit nudge, then again, this time a little harder, a little more passionately. Their embrace tightened as their kisses intensified and they fell onto the bed and wrapped the covers over each other. His hands went lower and lightly gripped her shift. Then, as deftly as an owl soaring through the night, he pulled it over her head and tossed it aside. It still felt strange; he had only done it a few times before recently. Flea did not seem to notice, so he did not bother himself with his own thoughts. Her hands, like delicate leaves, stroked his arms with all the tenderness and warmth in the night. On top of him, she sung to him in her own silent, musical notes, sung happiness and love and comfort to him.
And as the night passed on and the warmth of their love grew stronger, Janus knew to himself that he would only live for so long, and that only so many battles would be waged and won. But he also knew that love was mightier than he could ever possibly be. Life and Death where black and white. Where did love lie between those two? He wondered in his head.
But then he knew, as he let his hand slide across the soft whiteness of her stomach and feel the firm tenderness of her body, he knew that love was neither. Love was not necessarily Life or Death. Love is the human soul, the caring and the friendship that binds everyone, good or bad, smart or dull, right or wrong together.
Janus knew that he might die later. But that was later. Flea was here, with him now. That was all that mattered.
"Tata al'Mierra, you get down from there this minute, or when you do, I'll make sure you won't be able to sit down for weeks!" Minka called from her place on the ground. She stood down there with the afternoon sun shining over her. She looked up at him with a mix of anger and concern on her face and her fists on her hips. Tata had been with Minka for most of his life, and he knew that fists on hips meant trouble, usually for him.
"Minka, the kitten is scared to death." He said from thirty feet up the great oak tree he was climbing. The small black kitten, no larger than his two fists was crouched on a branch only a few feet away from him, its small green eyes watching him warily. "That dog is gone, but it doesn't know how to get down. Do you want me to just leave it up there?"
Minka frowned disapprovingly. "If you fall from that height, you will surely die. And if you die, I will die too."
Tata grimaced. Minka sure had a way with words, and when he heard her talk like that, he wanted to just hold her and tell her he'd be all right. But he couldn't right now. He had to get this kitten down, or it may never walk on sold ground again. He climbed higher, his muscles straining to hold him up. Sweat glistened on his face in little droplets and made his normally loose-fitting laced shirt cling to his muscular back. He perched his left leg on a thick branch and his right on another he found after feeling around a bit for. In this position, he was able to stretch up and pluck the kitten from its perch. It seemed too shocked to resist.
"Hey, little cat." He cooed softly, like a child talking to her baby. "It's okay now. I got you sa-"
Suddenly, his right leg dropped out from under him as the sound of snapping wood reached his ears. Too late he realized that his right foot had found a twig of a branch to stand on. He fell, and with nothing to hold onto except the kitten, all he could do was think how devastated Minka would be by his death.
He fell, listening to the wind howl in his ears and watching the ground approaching him very fast. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, he stopped moving. He lay there quite bewildered by the fact that he was still alive. The cat scrambled lke mad out of his arms, stopped, then uttered a small meow before turning tail and running away for all its worth. Tata stared silently at the sky, with its patchy, puffy clouds and pure blue to fill the spaces where clouds were not, wondering why he felt no pain. Thirty feet up was quite a fall, usually spelling death for most, yet here he lay, breathing steadily, as if he had just awoken from a nap.
"Tata!" The next thing he knew, Minka had thrown herself on top of him. Putting one leg one either side of him, she clutched his hair and pulled his face up to hers.
"Tata!" she repeated. "Oh God, answer me! Can you breathe? Are you hurt ?" The questions kept coming before Tata could even answer. He wondered himself if he really was well, but Minka was literally rambling questions about his idiotic bravery and how could men be so foolish. Only one way to tell her. Tata thought to himself.
His right hand came up off the ground and found the back of her crimson head. Before she could react, he pulled the head swiftly yet gently the rest of the way down to his. Her words stopped very abruptly as his lips touched hers. It was a long and passionate kiss, just the way Tata liked it. Kissing Minka was heaven for Tata; he never missed an opportunity to do so. He pulled away expecting a grin to meet his. Instead, however, an infuriated Minka slapped him hard enough to make his head ring and got up and stalked away to stand by the tree.
Still trying to regain his senses, Tata sat up and crawled to his feet. His head was still chiming as he made his way over to where Minka stood with her back to him. He stopped about a foot behind her when he noticed she was shaking. It was a warm spring day, and she was wearing a fall coat besides. Already Tata knew that she was crying.
"Minka," Tata tried to make his voice as soothing as possible. It came out as a near-whisper, so he cleared his throat and tried again. "Minka, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
She whirled around so fast that Tata nearly leapt back. Her eyes were bulging with tears. "You scared the life out of me, you uncaring lout! I told you to be careful, to come down so you wouldn't get hurt, but you just couldn't listen, could you?! It is a miracle you were unharmed, you heart strong fool! Are you completely deaf to reason?! Are you?! You must be; any sensible person would never act so foolishly! Have you not a care for yourself at all?! I would die if something happened to you! Why can't you respect that?!"
Her tirade ended at that and she crossed her arms below her breasts and lowered her head to stare at the ground. Tata saw a tear fall from her face, which was partially hidden by her crimson hair. It hung in strait, thin strands about a foot from the top of her scalp, and made the finest silk look as rough as wood. She was shaking again, Tata noticed.
Tata himself felt as though a mighty blow had struck him square in the chest. Had he really hurt her that much by acting so selflessly? He had only wanted to get the cat down, yet he had nearly died. And he had treated it as a joke, he realized. In consequence, he had hurt the person that meant the most to him. How could he have acted so carelessly? He wanted to cry himself now; he felt awful.
He didn't touch her this time. He simply spoke. "Minka, I am under the holiest of truth sorry for my careless actions. I cannot expect you to accept this apology, but I want to say from the depths of my soul that I love you. My death would cause as much pain to me as it would unto you, because I would have to leave you. I am unworthy to have someone who cares for me as much as you do. I cannot begin to describe what you mean to me. Such words were never invented. You are what I live for. Believe me, dying is the last thing I want right now."
He lowered his head, and she raised hers up to look at his face. She stepped forward and tilted his head up so she could softly kiss him on the lips.
"That was nice, Tata." Her voice carried to his ears on a light breeze that had just picked up. "You've never spoken to me like that before. I am sorry for yelling at you. I know you are kind-hearted and care for every living thing. You you mean a lot to me, Tata. I just don't want you to get hurt."
A small smile appeared quite out of the blue on Tata's face. He took her in his arms and held her gently. They held each other like that, eyes closed, listening to the wind in their ears, and enjoying the warmth of each other's bodies. Tata slowly stroked her hair in his hands, thinking about how beautiful she was. Tata was, however, a firm believer that beauty was in the eye of the beholder, that a person's most attractive features are their heart and soul. True beauty lay beneath the skin. People should look for inner beauty more often. Tata thought to himself. If only people looked at other people's personality for a change, instead of their appearance, half of the people I know would be a lot happier.
"I'll always love you, Tata." She said softly into his chest. "Though time, space and even death may try to break that, I will always love you."
"I know." He said just as softly. "I already know."
Tata awoke, and for the longest time simply lay staring at nothing while nothing except memories of the already-fading dream floated around in his brain like a leaf in a whirlpool. It had been awhile since he had had such a nice dream; he really couldn't remember the last time he had one that didn't cause him to wake up screaming bloody murder.
Tata's thoughts now drifted into the ancient memories he had of Minka. He could still remember them like it had been only yesterday that they had last seen each other. He had met her when he was six, just outside the local café. Len had shown up and attacked her, but he took the beating for her. She had healed him and they became friends. When they were twelve, they kissed for the first time. But they had fallen in love by then, and had pledged to marry each other. And when they were fourteen
She died. Tata's thoughts rippled back to reality as the pain of the truth welled inside of him. She had been dead over three years now, though he had not really experienced much of that time. But she was still gone, and Tata knew that he would feel it, feel the emptiness her death had left behind every day for the rest of his life. The tears had already begun to stream down his face and his body quivered. A pitiful whimper escaped his lips and he began to openly cry. Minka was dead, and so was her killer. His life had no meaning now, with no Minka to love and cherish and no Grendel to kill.
Grendel. Tata did not know that name. Beowulf did, but not Tata. Tata only knew Len. He was supposedly dead now, but he left his marks behind for the rest of the world to mourn. Marle was dead, and so was Lucca. Robo had lost Atropos, and finally, Aladren had died as well. Nothing but a seething hate burned inside of Tata's memory for that monster. He had taken too much from everyone, especially himself. But he was dead, and not even by Tata's hands. And he himself was still alive. Why? He was the eternal warrior, the one who could bring about peace in the world and destroy evil for good. But he had failed. He had failed.
Tata eventually fell asleep, cried into his own unconscious. He dreamed of himself, sitting cross-legged in the middle of a clearing in the Cursed Woods, with a scythe across his lap. Monsters and beasts moved around him, but he sat in perfect stillness with his eyes closed. The monsters laughed at him, but he did not move a muscle. Tears ran down his face, however, in thin streams. Suddenly, the monsters made of blackness began to die, one by one, dropping down on the ground and writhing until they heaved their last breath. Soon the woods were silent and only then did Tata open his eyes. They were like a hawk's gaze on its prey; they held no mercy.
End of Chapter 18
Go To Chapter 19
Return To CT Fanfic